Tuesday, February 21, 2012

More Than A Month - Where the Film Took Me As a White Person

I happened across an amazing film on PBS the other night called More Than A Month by filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman. A description of the film can be found here including a link to information about screenings and even a smartphone app that points users to sites of significance in African American history! Here is a taste:

Should Black History Month be ended? That’s the question explored by African American filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman as he embarks on a cross-country campaign to do just that. Both amusing and thought provoking, More Than a Month examines what the treatment of history tells us about race and power in contemporary America.
I hadn't heard of the film before I started watching it and I started out feeling defensive - attached to the idea of Black History Month and thinking of things to say to refute the idea of ending such a significant national focus on African American History. As the film unfolded and I saw the questioning, open nature of the film, I relaxed into the journey that the filmmaker had undertaken. I'm so glad I did because it took me to surprising places.

As a young person I grew up in a home that was strongly supportive of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. My parents had a very diverse group of friends and taught me that it was important to pay attention to injustice in the world and try to right the wrongs we saw. As a result I was committed to being an ally in the struggle to end racism. As I participated in anti-racism activities I took to heart the idea that, as a white person, it was my responsibility to learn about Black culture and history. I have enjoyed reading literature by People of Color and learning about the histories of People of Color for almost four decades since then. And then: Bang! The film More Than A Month helped me make a qualitative leap in my understanding of what Black History - and all history - is.

Black History, African American History, the history of People of Color is OUR history. MY history. Instead of seeing the fight to include African American History in the teaching of history as a fight to include a group that has been excluded - I now see it as a fight to correct a distorted representation of the history of my country and my world. Though I have always felt committed to "the cause," it no longer feels like being an ally. It feels like a fight for the truth which is a fight that includes us all.

I am still working on an interview with Pete Meyers. I have been detoured from my projects by personal circumstances but hope to get back to more regular writing some time this year.

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